The Best Books I’ve Read This Year (2014 Edition)

I spend quite a bit of time reading. Most of what I do for work, research, writing, and academia all involve massive amounts of reading. If you throw in my parenting and religious interests, I certainly spend a large portion of the average day reading content in various forms. I really enjoy reading plenty of other blogs and online sources, but when I really want to delve into a subject, I actually still prefer long form books. I tend to focus primarily on non-fiction, but I always enjoy throwing in a popular novel or two into the mix.

My methodology is pretty simple when it comes to finding new material. Anytime I hear about a new book, my first response is to find it on Amazon and send over the sample to my Kindle. I rarely have time to jump straight into a book when I first learn about it. So, samples are a great reminder tool, as well as a nice little addition to keep a running list of my current interests. I think most of the books I’ve read this year have been personal recommendations or ones I’ve seen recurring on blogs or other feeds that I follow.

I’ve discussed my all time favorite books in the past and also a handful of books that have changed my life. I’m always looking to add to my list, and books remain one of my favorite ways to learn. So, without further ado, here are five (or more) of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. I’ve also included some bonus ones at the end and some on my reading list. Do you have any books you think I should read next year? I’m always looking for things to add to my list.

vagabondingVagabonding – Ralf Potts
If there is a book I would recommend to anyone that is considering traveling overseas, it would surely be Potts’ classic. It is also a pretty good resource to encourage people to expand their horizons through a broader international perspective. I really wish I had been given this book when I was in my early teens. Although I already had a penchant for traveling, many of the logistical tips and overall insight would have been perspective changing on what to expect when traveling. The book talks about travel through the eyes of someone who wants to spend more than an hour or two at the tourist traps on a journey overseas. It also includes a lot of insight about the nature of things you can learn and experience when you travel with time and flexibility. I enjoyed the book so much, I actually ended up getting the audio book from Tim Ferris’ book club so I could share the audio with my wife. I could realistically add this to my favorite books of all time. Continue reading The Best Books I’ve Read This Year (2014 Edition)

Your Life is Designed to Be Expensive

Most people do not feel like they are living an excessive lifestyle. In fact, if you ask, people have a much greater awareness of areas where they contentiously hold back or make tough financial choices. It is also true that most people spend a lot more money than they wish and rarely meet their savings or investing goals. One of the problems we face in the western world, is that we have unconsciously designed our lives to be expensive. We fill our lives with lifestyle habits that elevate our monthly fixed costs. From mortgages, debt payments, insurance, utilities, basic food, childcare, communications, to transportation- we often set our expense expectations without ever spending a dollar of true discretionary money. For many families, our basic obligations are enough to consume the vast majority of our disposable income. When all of our money is already expensed, we rarely have any margin. And we certainly feel richer when we have plenty of that margin in our lives.

mcmansionWe don’t wonder out of an expensive lifestyle. But we can certainly wonder into one. To redesign our lifestyle, it takes a bit of reflection, introspection, and evaluation to motivate change. In addition, most Americans live in a perpetual time deficit so we resort to spending more to try and make up the lost time. We hire out anything we can and tend to spend excessively on the people we love- often to make up for the quality time we wish we could spend with them. Overall, we create a lifestyle that becomes very expensive to maintain. However, we do have a choice. We get to choose how we want to design our life. It starts with a few observations and small steps. Continue reading Your Life is Designed to Be Expensive

The Reluctant Environmentalist

Why is it always cloudy over here? I asked my tour guide. It never seems to rain but it always looks overcast. She replied in a pleasantly accented english, “This is normal, you get used to it after a while.” It wasn’t until we left the city of Beijing that I saw the sun for the first time on our several week trip through China. Until that point, I never considered myself an environmentalist. In fact, for most of my life it was much more convenient to not even think twice about the environment in which I lived. Sure, I like clean spaces and I’ll pick up trash around the house to make it look better, but I was never searching to be a part of some greater environmental cause.

chinaSo, why am I still reluctant to ascribe to environmentalist perspectives? I think it is two-fold. First, it is about inconvenience. As painful as it sounds from a first world perspective, the environmentally friendly products are often portrayed to be less convenient or more expensive options. The second is about distractions and guilt. We only have limited amounts of cognition and willpower and we often tend to concentrate on only the most urgent things in our life. For busy people, spending a lot of time thinking about saving the environment is simply not a priority. It takes time to fully wrestle with the idea of ‘what is enough’? Where do we draw the line between waste and consumption? If I drive a car, is that too much? Air condition? Flying across the world in a plane? Recycling? An SUV?

For me, it all boils down to waste. There is some part of the minimalism, living simply, and the efficient living movement that aligns itself to a less environmentally impactful lifestyle. Continue reading The Reluctant Environmentalist

Why Our New Electric Car Is Cheaper Than A Cell Phone (in GA)

We just joined the electric car revolution. Well, maybe a puttering attempt for revolution. But nevertheless, we have joined the electric car bandwagon by purchasing a new Nissan Leaf to drive for the next few years. Due to an unusual set of incentives in place, the cost of owning an electric car (in GA) is probably cheaper than your current cell phone bill.

20141029_124030011_iOSIf you had asked me six months ago if I would ever drive a new car, let alone lease a new car, I would have told you that you are crazy. I have been a staunch supporter of buying reliable, efficient, used vehicles for years. Buying new is a pretty tough sell, but leasing new is generally faux pa in almost all frugallite circles. However, for every rule of thumb, there are always a few exceptions. And this case is no different. By fully utilizing all the current tax and non-profit institutional pricing incentives, we have leased a brand new 2015 fully electric Nissan Leaf for total price of $1,186 ($49/Month) with an estimated gas savings of at least $2,125 ($88/Month) over the course of the two year lease. Special current incentives also include no down payment options. Continue reading Why Our New Electric Car Is Cheaper Than A Cell Phone (in GA)